'It was harrowing': U.S. Rep. Schneider on taking cover as mob stormed U.S. Capitol

  • U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield shelters with others in the gallery of the U.S. House Wednesday as protesters try to break in.

    U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield shelters with others in the gallery of the U.S. House Wednesday as protesters try to break in. Associated Press

Updated 1/7/2021 8:21 PM

Illinois congressman Brad Schneider experienced the unimaginable Wednesday: having to take cover in the gallery of the U.S. House as angry pro-Donald Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol.

When asked Thursday afternoon how he was doing, the Democrat from Deerfield, who represents Illinois' 10th House District, said, "I am better than yesterday."


Schneider was in the gallery Wednesday afternoon watching the proceedings to certify the presidential election. He and other Democrats had adhered to social distancing recommendations and reserved the main floor for the speakers, he said.

After President Donald Trump held a rally outside and the crowd began to advance toward the Capitol, Schneider monitored social media. He texted his wife, children and parents to let them know he was safe inside the Capitol when his office building was evacuated.

When the mob breached the Capitol's security perimeter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was escorted out, the proceedings were adjourned for a bit, and soon they reconvened, he said. Then U.S. Capitol Police came in, told everyone to take cover and locked the doors, he said.

Then police said tear gas had been used in the Capitol's Rotunda and told everyone to pull out the escape hoods, a sort of modified gas mask, from under the seats. Eventually there was an announcement to evacuate.

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Lawmakers started making their way across the rows of seats, but as they got close to the exit, they were told to hit the ground, Schneider said.

Moments later, someone broke the glass of a door to the House floor.

"It was harrowing," he said. "This was the moment I was thinking about my family. I was thinking about the security of the people around me. I was thinking most about what was happening to our country."

Schneider said he heard a gunshot. He didn't know whether that was the shot that hit 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt of California, the person killed by gunfire Wednesday. Three other people died after what police called medical emergencies.

Schneider doesn't recall exactly how long he remained on the floor, tensely waiting -- maybe two minutes, maybe 10, he said. Eventually he and the other lawmakers were taken to a secure location, where they remained for a few hours before going back to the House to resume the process of certifying Democrat Joe Biden's presidential win, he said.


"The mob had failed. The Constitution had stood. Congress had risen to complete its work," he said.

Schneider said he's grateful to the members of the Capitol police who safeguarded his and other lawmakers' lives. Still, he supports investigating the law enforcement agency's planning and response, he said.

"Clearly there was insufficient security perimeters, insufficient number of personnel ready to handle the challenge, and insufficient stopgaps along the way," he said.

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